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An Introduction to Literary Chinese, Michael A. Fuller

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妻 is never used as a verb, only a noun.

Please stop claiming things without looking them up in a dictionary. My Classical Chinese dictionary says about 妻:

1. 妻 qi1, 妻子。旧指男子的嫡配。 (example from 战国策)

2 妻 qi4, 嫁给。(example from 论衡), also: 娶为配偶 (example from 孟子)

Apart from what's in the dictionary, it's also a well-known grammatical phenomenon in Classical Chinese to use nouns as verbs in a specific type of construction, see Pulleyblank, p. 25-6.

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I'm still wondering what would make an experienced reader of classical Chinese naturally interpret this text as one 是 (...) 也sentence rather than two sentences. Maybe 是 (X 非 Y) 也 is a typical pattern?

That's a very good question and, while I am not an experienced reader myself, I can only say it feels wrong to interrupt the natural flow of the contrasting sentence. An argument against 是 [X 非 Y] 也 being a typical pattern could be made (think 是不為也,非不能也), but honestly, your guess is as good as mine.

I completely agree with your analysis of 以其外之也. It makes a lot of sense - good catch! And I'll also agree that you would expect simple coordination in the case of your 把這本書翻譯成日文 translation. trien, I'm not sure if suffixing 文 to names of geographical areas was a productive pattern in Classical Chinese? I've never seen a place name + 文 to mean "the language spoken in [place name]", so if you have any examples of this, please do share. I would be interested to see them :)

There's no measure words in Classical Chinese.

Well, that depends. I'll readily admit they were not as common as they are in Mandarin, but as Branner (2002) points out:

(...) in the earliest examples of numeral-plus-classifier phrases, those phrases appear after the noun, rather than before, e.g. 負服矢五十個 (Xunzi "Yibing 議兵" 15.272).
(link to CTP added by me)

Another example from the Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi would be:

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am planning to start out with that textbook, and am wondering the best way to go about that - I intend after getting a solid foundation in Classical Chinese to try and move all my Classical reading to Classical-Mandarin instead of Classical-English orientation, but as my Mandarin isn't up to par right now, and I want to get a foundation in the grammar and basic vocabulary in English, I am wondering what the best way to go about using this book is, from those who have experience.

I have no problem trying to commit all the vocabulary to memory, but how does one go about doing the exercises, and does one need a teacher or somebody to correct them? Also, what sort of supplementary resources should I be looking into, and what sort of dictionary should I consult?

Thanks for your time,



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First of all, hello, welcome! :)

I haven't used this textbook myself, as it's not available in bookstores here. But I know this textbook contains 古代漢語 - English vocabulary lists, so you probably wouldn't need to use a dictionary at all. If you want to get one anyway, it shouldn't be a problem to use this textbook together with a Classical Chinese - Mandarin dictionary such as the 古代漢語常用字字典 or the 古代漢語詞典. You can always look up words in a Mandarin - English dictionary, after all. This is what I used to do when my Mandarin was worse still than it is now :wink: But as I said, as a beginning student you should be able to get along just fine with only this textbook for now.

As you can see in this thread, we're more than happy to answer questions about the exercises or the texts, although obviously nothing beats having a teacher explain texts to you face-to-face. As for supplementary resources, I would try to get the two dictionaries I mentioned above, if you are serious about learning Classical Chinese. They're not that expensive, and you'll save yourself a lot of headaches. Because that's what you get if you try to read Classical Chinese with a general Chinese dictionary :)

Have a look through the other threads in this forum. There's certain to be some interesting information for you, and please feel free to post any further questions you might have! Enjoy studying Classical Chinese. Sometimes it's going to be hard, but when you finally crack a text, you'll feel like you are 天下之王 :)

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Hey, I just found my copy of Fuller again :oops: Well, I guess there are no longer any open questions to the first 8 chapters....

But if anyone is up for continuing with the lesson 18 and beyond, I'm all game :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I almost forgot I started this thread. So many of the questions I get lazy on and just answer "I DGAF." I hope one day I find the time and patience to study. Or I could just take a class and pay someone to force me to self-study.

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  • 3 months later...

Well, on Chapter 29 this week! Next week I'll be starting Rouzer. I've found Fuller to be a great ride these past six months, and I'll share some thoughts on this book in a few days.

In the meantime, don't give up, guys!

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  • 7 months later...

I have a question about the last sentence of the Lesson 3 Text. Here's the whole text for context:


Now, it looks like the original begins "宋人有耕田者," but that isn't really a problem.

I translated the last sentence as "These days we wish to use the rule of the Former Kings to govern the people of our age who are all the 'stump-guarding' sort." I suppose this fits, especially when considering the punctuation given on Donald Sturgeon's site. However, this site gives a different translation:

"Today, we desire to rule like the former kings did in their age but we still have many people who are watching the tree stump waiting for a rabbit."

Now this seems to be a fairly loose translation, but the meaning isn't too far off from mine. However, this site gives a much different translation:

"Now supposing somebody wanted to govern the people of the present age with the policies of the early kings, he would be doing exactly the same thing as that man who watched the tree."

I assume this translator is taking "今欲以先王之政治當世之民皆" as the topic and ”守株之類也“ as the comment. My question is, which is more accurate? Are those who wish to rule like the old kings did foolishly "guarding stumps?" Or are those being ruled the foolish ones?

Thanks for any help!

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In context, the analogy comes after examples of foolish governance that blindly applies the policies of previous eras to the present day, and a nod toward era-appropriate techniques. In other words, the analogy compares the rulers, not the subjects, to the stump-guarders.

The punctuation on Donald Sturgeon's site seems to me to go with this reading, with 皆 being the pivot after the topic.

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zhwj is, of course, correct in pointing out the context shows your translation is probably wrong. There's also a linguistic reason to assume so. The reason your translation can't be right is that in translating 當世之民皆守株之類 as "the people of our age who are all the 'stump-guarding' sort", you're reading this as one noun phrase, with both 當世 and 皆守株之類 as adjuncts. In Classical Chinese, adjuncts are rarely found after the head of a phrase.

Take a look at these examples:

殺兵之人 = 'the man who killed the soldier'

人之殺兵 = 'the killing of soldiers by men'

In the first phrase, 人 is the head of the NP, and 殺兵 is an adjunct. As soon as you move that adjunct to the end of the NP, however, it turns into the head. There is no way that 人之殺兵 can be construed as 'the man who killed the soldier', because adjuncts can only appear before NP heads. Here, 人 is therefore an adjunct.

Similarly, in the sentence at hand, you cannot have 皆守株之類 appearing as an adjunct in the NP 當世之民皆守株之類, because the head is 民: we're discussing "people who X".

This is why this translation you quoted is more accurate:

"Now supposing somebody wanted to govern the people of the present age with the policies of the early kings, he would be doing exactly the same thing as that man who watched the tree."

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask if you have any further questions :)

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OK, I see. That makes so much sense now. I think my brain was a little foggy last night when I was doing this.

So, this is a better translation? (I'm trying to be as literal as possible):


Now, (those who) desire to use the policies of the Former Kings to rule the people of the present age


are all of the "stump-guarding" sort.

Thanks so much, guys!

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That's what I was thinking too, Hofmann. I'll wait on the more eloquent translations until I have a better grasp of the language. For now accuracy is the goal.

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